Falling ore grades push up power demand for mines


THE falling ore grades has pushed up consumption of power by mines by more than 50 percent for them to produce metals, says Zambia Chamber of Mines acting chief executive officer Talent Ng’andwe. Mr Ngándwe said because of the huge amount of work such as heating and processing required to produce metals,  this has resulted into mining accounting for more than 50 percent of total power consumption. In a statement, Mr Ng’andwe said that mining was one of the most energy intensive industries in the world, which accounted for an estimated five percent of global electricity consumption. He however said that the sector accounted for more than 50 percent of total power consumption in Zambia because of the huge amount of work, heat and processing required to produce metals. Mr Ng’andwe noted that the industry typically represented a significant and largest slice of national energy consumption in all mining countries. “In Chile, the world’s largest copper producer, mining accounts for more than 20% of total power consumption; in South Africa, the proportion is about 15%; in Australia, it is 9%;  in Zambia it is more than 50%, reflecting Zambia’s small installed electrical energy base compared to that of larger, more diversified economies,” he said. Mr Ng’andwe said that the United States has a huge mining industry which he disclosed produced nearly US$110 billion of coal, metals and industrial metals in 2015, but that the sector took under 10 percent of total energy usage. He said that the commercial manager at First Quantum Minerals John Dean referred to energy as ‘‘the price the world paid for the metals that the mining industry unearthed’’. Mr Ng’andwe however reiterated that no country could survive without the industrial metals extracted through mining, adding that there would be no homes, buildings, cars, cell phones, computers, and other goods which enabled society to function. He explained that mining consumed lots of energy, like electricity and diesel fuel, for the simple reason that it involved a lot of work. Mr Ng’andwe also attributed current high power consumption of mines to the ore grades, which he said were getting low over time. He pointed out that the low grades of metals meant that more work had to be done to produce a given quantity of metal.   “The global mining industry’s energy consumption is so high that it is difficult to comprehend for the average domestic residential user, for whom using a lot of electricity means running the oven, the kettle and the washing machine at the same time “Additional cost factor for Copperbelt mines is the presence of underground water. Konkola Deep copper mine is the wettest and pumps 450 million litres to the surface everyday,” said Mr Ng’andwe.